When a person has dementia, it means they are losing memories, not feelings. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou,
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
That seems to be true even if your loved-one cannot remember your name or your visit. According to the National Institutes of Health, the elevated feelings of happiness levels of sadness and that persisted well beyond their memory for the events that originally caused the emotion.
Caring Makes a Difference
The month of February is often associated with Valentine’s Day. This year, if possible, let your loved-one know your love for them by giving the best Valentine ever. Your company! Bring lots of smiles, kind words, soft voices, and singing.
No matter where they reside; at their home, in a care home, Memory Unit, or in a Skilled Nursing Facility, those that share in their care need to know who they are as a person. It has been my observation that folks (unconsciously) connect with, relate to, and care more for someone they know. The patient becomes a person instead of bed 6C, or a client number, or something on a to-do list.
When my Mama entered a Skilled Nursing Facility, it took a while for us to acclimate to her new living arrangements. We went from us providing all her care to having strangers provide for her needs. We wanted to be sure that they understood her value. We visited often and over time shared with those providing her care who she was and what she did and enjoyed before dementia struck.
Talking about your loved one’s past, and their previous personality is helpful. It helps others appreciate their value, especially if it is accompanied by small gifts, flowers, and cards – things that can be displayed in the room.
Be as Present as Possible
Whenever you are able, take flowers instead of sending them…. unless you live too far away. Then sending flowers conveys a nice message. Deliver cards in person instead of mailing them. Again, if mailing them is the only option, then it’s better to mail than neglect. And send them often. Don’t wait for a birthday, special occasion or holiday. If the Care Staff sees your loved-one receiving flowers, cards and little gifts along with a cheery note, they will realize the person in bed 6C is loved and thought of regularly.
Another idea along those lines is to give every friend and family member a pre-addressed blank card to write their favorite memory involving your loved-one. Ask them, if possible, to bring the card in person – if not, mailing it would work as well. The care staff will see the cards and read the memories to your loved one and begin to see some of the charming characteristics that they possessed prior to dementia. Who knows? Maybe it will trigger other memories…or perhaps your loved one will remember some of the events as well. Even if that doesn’t happen, the time spent together is worth it.
Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy on your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook